Poppy Logo

Harry Martin

Private Harry Martin, 35344, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 8th Battalion

Harry Martin was born in Ossett in 1894 the youngest child of four surviving children born to Samuel Martin and his wife, Mary (nee Binks), who married at South Ossett Christ Church on the 22nd December 1878. The couple had five children from their marriage but one child had died before April 1911. Harry Martin was baptised at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Ossett on Boxing Day 1897.

In 1911 Samuel Martin, a teamer at a local mill, Mary and their their four children, two sons and two daughters, aged between 26 and 16 years of age, were living on Chancery Lane, Ossett, which had been their home since their marriage. Harry Martin, now aged 16, was working as a dairyman’s assistant.

Harry Martin’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Ossett and joined the 8th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with service number 35344. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914/15 Star, indicating that he did not serve overseas before the 31st December 1915.

The 8th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third New Army and joined 70th Brigade, 23rd Division. They undertook training in England at Pontefract, Frensham, Aldershot, Hythe and Bordon, before proceeding to France. They landed at Boulogne in August 1915. They transferred to with 70th Brigade to 8th Division on the 18th of October 1915, in an exchange with 24th Brigade, allowing the inexperienced troops to learn from those who had battle experience, returning to their original divisions in June 1916. The 23rd Division were at Bomy beginning a period of intensive training for the Battles of the Somme.

They were in action in The Battle of Albert including the capture of Contalmaison, The Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and The Battle of Le Transloy including the capture of Le Sars. In 1917 they fought in The Battle of Messines, The Battles of the Menin Road, Polygon Wood and the The First and Second Battles of Passchendaele. In November 1917 the Division moved to Italy concentrating between Mantua and Marcaria before taking over the front line at the Montello on the 4th of December.

What was called The Flanders Offensive, or the Third Battle of Ypres, started on June 7th 1917, with The Battle of Messines. It became associated with Passchendaele, but the First Battle of Passchendaele did not start until the 12th October 1917.

"In the first days of June 1917, from the camp near Ouderdom, the 8/K.O.Y.L.I moved up to battalion concentration area for the Messines offensive. The 70th Infantry Brigade was allotted the part of pivot brigade on the extreme left of X Corps. The directions issued to the brigade were, to bring its right shoulder up until its lines should be facing north-east, and to form a defensive flank for the general line of operations. There were five days of bombardment prior to the attack. Mines at Hill 60 and the Caterpillar were fired at 'Zero' hour and were the signal for the assault.

The 8/K.O.Y.L.I was the right support battalion of the brigade, with orders to capture and consolidate the second objective. The first objective was Image trench and part of Illusive trench in the enemy's front line, the second being Image crescent. The 8/K.O.Y.L.I moved in rear along a tunnel towards Hedge street, with 'B' Company in advance. This company was responsible for seeing that the front line was fairly clear before the battalion emerged from the Winnipeg exit. The battalion then moved down the front line trench into Living trench, where it came in touch with the 8/Y and L.

Two hours after 'Zero', 'B' and 'A' companies advanced in line of sections in file to their assembly positions in Image reserve, followed by 'C' company. Three hours and forty minutes after 'Zero' the battalion advanced to capture its objectives. When that was successfully accomplished Image crescent was consolidated under the protection of the Lewis-guns, while bombing parties were immediately pushed forward up the communicating trenches. The 8/Y and L combined in the attack. From June 8-10 the battalion remained in the front line trenches. It was relieved on the night of the 10th and proceeded to camp near Meteren til the night of the 27th, when it went back into the front line again. In the four days June 7-10th the battalion had 250 casualties in other ranks" 1

Battle of Messines

Private Harry Martin, aged 23 years, died on the 7th June 1917. He is buried at grave reference Enclosure No.4 VII. C. 28. at the Bedford House Cemetery,2 Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Bedford House Cemetery is located 2.5 Km south of Ieper town centre. The cemetery lies on the Rijselseweg (N336), the road connecting Ieper to Armentieres.

Zillebeke village and most of the commune were in the hands of Commonwealth forces for the greater part of the First World War, but the number of cemeteries in the neighbourhood bears witness to the fierce fighting in the vicinity from 1914 to 1918.

Bedford House, sometimes known as Woodcote House, were the names given by the Army to the Chateau Rosendal, a country house in a small wooded park with moats. Although it never fell into German hands, the house and the trees were gradually destroyed by shell fire. It was used by field ambulances and as the headquarters of brigades and other fighting units, and charcoal pits were dug there from October 1917.

In time, the property became largely covered by small cemeteries; five enclosures existed at the date of the Armistice, but the graves from No.1 were then removed to White House Cemetery, St. Jean, and those from No.5 to Aeroplane Cemetery, Ypres.

Enclosure No.2 was begun in December 1915, and used until October 1918. After the Armistice, 437 graves were added, all but four of which came from the Ecole de Bienfaisance and Asylum British Cemeteries, both at Ypres.

Enclosure No.3, the smallest, was used from February 1915 to December 1916; the burials made in August-October 1915 were largely carried out by the 17th Division.

Enclosure No.4, the largest, was used from June 1916 to February 1918, largely by the 47th (London) Division, and after the Armistice it was enlarged when 3,324 graves were brought in from other burial grounds and from the battlefields of the Ypres Salient. Almost two-thirds of the graves are unidentified.

Enclosure No.6 was made in the 1930s from the graves that were continuing to be found on the battlefield of the Ypres Salient. This enclosure also contains Second World War burials, all of them soldiers of the British Expeditionary Force, who died in the defence of the Ypres-Comines canal and railway at the end of May 1940. The canal lies on high ground on the west side of the cemetery.

References:

1. "King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War 1914-1918" by R.C. Bond, Naval & Military Press Ltd, ISBN: 9781843427636

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site